TORONTO – The Fionet Rapid Response Group formed by Toronto’s Fio Corp. and Relay Medical Corp. has received COVID-19 lateral flow rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) from the European division of Abbott Laboratories Inc., Switzerland’s Roche Diagnostics AG and North York, Ontario’s Proprietary Innovation Labs Inc. for operation with its mobile testing and tracking platform. Not only will the Fionet Mobile COVID-19 Testing and Tracking Platform be used by frontline health care workers to test for the disease it will simultaneously capture large scale, frontline data normally difficult to capture outside traditional hospital settings.

“While 90% of all health care data on planet Earth come from hospitals, 90% of all health care interaction occurs in decentralized or community-based health care,” Fio CEO Michael Greenberg told BioWorld. “In other words, most health care data comes from where the least amount of health care happens. That has incredible implications for health care quality and spending efficiency.”

Algorithmic testing and tracking

It’s estimated that up to 5 billion RDTs are sold around the world every year. Each involves placement of a biological sample inside a well or small hole of the testing cartridge and a brief wait before the result can be read by a health care worker. Abbott and Roche’s RTDs work the same way. “Abbott has a good test, Roche has a good test as do a number of companies you may not have heard of,” said Greenberg.

“But in order for our device to read a test we have to train its AI algorithms to work with those companies’ rapid tests,” he explained. The waiting period for a result varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, for example. “If a test requires a seven-minute wait and you look at it in four minutes, you will get an inaccurate result,” said Greenberg.

You also must keep track of results from different patients tested at different times, a source of error exacerbated if a health care worker is looking at somebody else’s test thinking they’re looking at yours, said Greenberg.

“Our platform will figure out if a health care worker puts in the right or wrong amount of sample. It will figure out if I’m waiting too long or not long enough and catch just about any mistake and correct it.”

The key here, Greenberg added, is the platform’s AI-based algorithms “which can produce results as accurate as a leading lab tech who knows to do all that stuff and is not as harried as people at the front line.”

Broader implications for health care data collection

As important as getting a correct test result using the Fionet platform is its data analytic capabilities, said Greenberg. This is especially important when so much key health care data is in community-based health care facilities, not large hospitals as most people expect.

“What you have in most clinics around the world are overworked health care workers, a tremendous number of patients and RDTs that are used manually,” said Greenberg. When those workers finish, they will either record the details of what they did or skip that and move on to the next patient.

“Our solution is not to ask these overworked health care workers for data,” said Greenberg. “It’s to give them a companion device that captures that data for them.”

Everything through triage, patient intake and sample preparation gets captured, said Greenberg. Before the patient gets out the door that data is encrypted and uploaded to the cloud. The system then populates dashboards used by supervisors, upper management and health care policy makers.

“The platform allows them to make simultaneous adjustments of all frontline activity at any level of granularity,” said Greenberg. “It legitimizes itself by its utility on the front line while capturing and presenting vast amounts of data as insights to people who are responsible for running the front line so that they can run it more dynamically.”

Not surprisingly this “smart point-of-care platform” materially enhances the value of Fio and Relay Medical Corp, said Greenberg. On Nov. 12, their working group reported contracts exceeding CA$500,000 ($US385,000) to bring to market a new type of RDT, and deployment of Fionet to 10 primary health care facilities in Kenya.

“We’ve sold CA$10 million ($US7.7 million) worth of this technology for other infectious diseases. COVID-19 is new,” said Greenberg.” With 1 million patients tested to date and 50 million data points captured, Greenberg’s eye is now on Fionet’s approval by regulators. “We didn’t invent Fionet for COVID. We’ve been perfecting it for a pandemic for the past ten years. Here, we’ve got something that can be immediately deployed in Canada.”